Happy Fontanniversary, Corey!

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Can’t find a chair? Just hop in the trunk.

This is Corey’s 6th Fontanniversary. We are 6 years post-op! And he’s 10 – how did that happen? It’s also my Grandma Anne’s 92nd birthday. My other grandmother, Fran, is about to reach her 93rd birthday next month. Damian’s Grandma Jeanne just hit 93. So basically I’m surrounded by a bunch of willful, stubborn people who just plan to keep right on living indefinitely. Corey came into the world that way – I guess he came by these traits honestly. I’m so glad he did.

How is the heart child doing 6 years after the Fontan? Kicking butt and taking names, that’s how. It’s baseball season, and he plays catcher on defense, a role he loves, because the catcher is involved in all the plays. And, just like everything else Corey does, he’s all-in or he’s not in at all. His speeds are “on” and “off” – nothing in between. This is absolutely inspiring and utterly exhausting.

In school, his grades are As and Bs. More As than Bs, and his Maryland State Assessment test scores for math were off the charts. He creamed everybody. In his school, in his county, even in his state. His dad’s got a master’s in math, though, and I used to tutor college algebra and calculus, so again – good genes. (See what I did there? I just tooted Damian’s horn, Corey’s horn, and my horn too. Toot toot!) Also, through school, he plays the violin, and he loves it. And he’s good at it.

There is no Rubik’s cube that Corey can’t solve!

Yes that statement requires its own paragraph. Let’s see, what else? Oh! We are teaching him to play poker – Texas Hold’em. The Easter Bunny picked him up a set of cards and chips – given his proclivity for math and his luck at cards (his Uncle Dave used to be a professional poker player, so clearly this is genetics again!), we think he could have a smashing good time at this. We plan to get some lessons from his uncle when we visit him in California this year.

Anyway, in summary, the kid has exceeded all our expectations. We hoped he’d be somewhere on the spectrum of normal and quasi-intelligent, but he’s turned out to be a brilliant little being. He’s my miracle. Today and always.

Goodbye Calypso

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Tomorrow I will be making pancakes for breakfast. It’s Thursday. The boys get pancakes on Thursdays. The night before, I always set out the pancake mix, the bowl, the pan, and the cup of water I’ll need in the morning. As I was setting out the water tonight, my first thought was, “I better cover this glass so Calypso doesn’t jump up on the counter in the middle of the night and drink out of it.” And then I remembered that she can’t. She can’t because she’s gone now. She’ll never drink from one of our water glasses again, because this afternoon we took her to the vet and had her euthanized.

It happened so fast. Too fast. Just last week she was fierce. Full of personality. Purring, jumping on our laps, asking for tuna, running around the house, giving us all the love and attitude that she always has. But this week, everything changed.

I remember the moment that I met her. She was just one of a litter who needed a home. But the moment I walked into the house she lived in, I knew she was the one. She marched up to me with her itty bitty little self, looked up, said, “Mew,” with her tiny kitten voice, and that was it. I was in love with her. I picked her up, found that she was so small that she could lie in my hand as I petted her with two fingers. She came home with me that night, and she became my constant companion for almost the next 19 years.

And that is exactly what she’s been. My constant. So many people have walked into and out of my life. I’ve lived in so many different places. Had different cars. Changed jobs. Been married. Had children. Lived through surgeries, tragedies, holidays, ups downs lefts rights this that and the other thing – and through all of it, through every single step, there has been one constant. One tiny little being who has always been with me. And that was Calypso. She was my constant through half of my life on this earth.

That constant is gone now, and a part of my heart is gone too. I had no idea how much this would hurt. I haven’t felt anything like this since the days when we thought we might lose Corey.

I was with her when she died. Damian, Corey, and Mason were all in the room when the vet weighed her, found that she’d wasted to a mere 4 pounds, examined her, and said, “If this were my pet, I would let her go.” Damian and the boys said goodbye to her, and then they left me to see her through to the end. The vet gave her a powerful anesthetic, and in true Calypso fashion, she found one last spike of sass, whipped around and schwacked/hissed at the vet. The vet said, “Whoa! I didn’t expect her to be that fast.” I actually smiled, despite the situation, at that one last “back off!” that my sassy cat whipped out at the very end. Then Calypso turned to me, pressed her little face into my chest, and I stroked her fur, whispered that I loved her, and waited for the medication to take effect.

The final dose of heart-stopping medication was administered as she calmly rested on her side, the vet listened for her heartbeat, said, “Her heart has stopped, she’s gone, I’ll leave you alone for a few minutes.” She left, and I said my final goodbye. Calypso’s passing was peaceful, but it struck me, as I looked at her lying there on the table, that she was so thin, her fur was so knotty, she just looked so wasted and old, that we absolutely made the right decision. Her life was over. She’d refused food and drink for two days. She was done. It was a kindness to let her go.

But it hurts so much. I feel her absence. It’s amazing how quiet it is in our house now. How could a 5.5 pound being bring so much life to a house? So much energy? So much presence? But she did. She was a tiny little being who meant so much to me, to all four of us, and I will miss her every day.

Goodbye, my little Buddha. I love you so much. Be at peace.

The Heart Child is 10!

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And he turned 10 a month ago! And I have not written a single word since January! Which is very sad. Especially considering what a momentous occasion it was to celebrate an entire decade of Corey’s life. The child who has half a heart, who the perinatologist said would not reach his first birthday, has now blasted past 10 birthdays with his hair on fire. That child has more energy than an atomic bomb. He wakes up in the morning, his brain is instantly buzzing, and he is in action from that moment until the moment when his head hits the pillow at night. He gets As and Bs in school, he plays the violin, he is a reporter for his school newspaper, and he plays baseball. And he loves building Legos (like the Leaning Tower of Piza, above), solving Rubik’s cubes, and learning magic tricks.

He is a little miracle.

So why haven’t I written about this little miracle in so long? I blame the two-year-olds. You’re thinking, “Uh, what?” I’m teaching preschool. There are 30 two-year-olds in my life now. And they are wonderful, adorable, laugh-out-loud funny little beings who suck my energy out like a Hoover on steroids. I do love them, though. They just don’t leave much left in my tank for things like blogging.

Anyway, we did celebrate Corey’s big day like he was a rock star. We didn’t have one party. We had two parties. One was an evening event for adults and family members, and the other was an afternoon event at Corey’s favorite arcade – Crabtowne. The first event went off without a hitch. The second event, not so much. It snowed, which turns everybody here in Maryland into giant snow weenies (present company included), and nobody wants to drive anywhere. But! Of the four boys Corey invited to play pinball and old-fashioned Pac-Man, three of them braved the snow, accepted a roll of quarters from us, and played their hearts out for about two hours. In the end, Corey was happy. Other than that, who cares?

Corey is my miracle. And to CHD I would like to say, IN YOUR FACE!

Top 10 Most Disturbing Movie Scenes

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Mom, don’t read this.

So, we are making our Oscar push right now, which means that we are attempting to see as many movies as possible with Oscar nominations. Not just best picture, but actor, short film, make-up – really whatever we can feasibly manage to see before the red carpet parade of stars. If my political research were this intense my voting strategies might be altered.

In any case, Oscar-nominated films often broach difficult, disturbing subjects. “12 Years a Slave” (2013) and “Schlindler’s List” (1993) come to mind. Slavery and the holocaust – pretty much the epitome of difficult and disturbing? They are the kinds of movies that should be made. The kind of movies that remind us of what we are capable of as a race of humans. What we have done to each other. What we will be doomed to do to each other again and again and again if we allow patterns in history to repeat themselves by embracing ignorance. But man, are they hard to watch! I watched “Schlindler’s List,” and there are moments from that movie that are forever burned into my brain. I could not bring myself to watch “12 Years a Slave.” I just couldn’t do it. I wimped out.

Recently we saw the controversial, and Oscar nominated, film “American Sniper” (2014). It was excellent. Riveting. Revolting. Incredible. Chris Kyle is an American Hero in my eyes. He “just wanted to get the bad guys.” And, as the “most lethal American sniper,” he certainly got a lot of bad guys. I’m glad I saw the film. And not because it was fun to watch Bradley Cooper parade around in uniform with his big guns blazing. Ahem.

Wait, what was I saying? I got distracted there for a moment. Oh yes! Right. Difficult and disturbing films.

During the course of my time as a film buff, and an Oscar buff, I have come across a lot of disturbing scenes in films. I’ve seen enough movies (even though I bailed on “12 Years a Slave”) to have compiled a list of seriously disturbing scenes. I thought I had my number 1 for all time, which could never be touched, until I saw “American Sniper.” And now it’s been usurped. Sadly. I’m sure there are many scenes that may trump these (or should be included), but I can only use my own cinematographic experience.

Here is my Top 10 List of Most Disturbing Movie Scenes

10. Regan, possessed by a demon, scene with the metal crucifix (expletives involved that I won’t repeat – if you’ve seen the movie, you know the scene), “The Exorcist,” 1973

9. The eyes of Alex are forcefully held open while he is subjected to endless scenes of brutal imagery, “A Clockwork Orange,” 1971

8. Bill confesses to his son that he’s drugged and raped two of his friends, who are children, “Happiness,” 1998

7. The head in a box, “Se7en,” 1995

6. Church explosion that kills four innocent young girls in their church, committed by white racists, “Selma,” 2014

5. Gang rape of Mrs. Alexander in “A Clockwork Orange,” 1971

4. Jewish children hide in the feces of a latrine to keep from being killed by Nazis, “Schlindler’s List,” 1993

3. Beating death of a man using a fire extinguisher to the face, “Irreversible,” 2002

2. Brutal 9-minute long rape/beating of Alex in “Irreversible,” 2002

1. Use of a power drill to torture and then murder a young boy by a terrorist known as The Butcher, “American Sniper,” 2014

In an Emergency, Some Unexpected Perspective

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“I don’t have any water.” My mother made this statement, over the phone, to her condominium association yesterday. Instead of being told, “We’ll send someone to help you right away.” Or, “We’re aware of a problem, and we’re trying to fix it.” Or really any other statement to the effect of, “We’ll help you,” instead she was told that this did not qualify as an “emergency,” but rather that it was just an “inconvenience.”

Say what?

The following basic formula applies: Humans – Water = Death. We can’t live without water. It’s not “convenient.” It’s essential. Ergo, my mother’s predicament was clearly in the “emergency” category. If a complete lack of water is not an emergency, then what IS an emergency to these people? A roof on fire? Or is she going to have to call on her neighbors to start a bucket brigade in that case too? I mean, if we don’t need water, then who needs a roof? Just pitch a tent in your bedroom! Water, shelter, food – these are just modern amenities. Did I mention that it’s barely above freezing outside right now too?

Right.

The condominium association representative told my mother to call a plumber. Then she told my mother to take a hairdryer and blow on the pipes for an hour herself. An hour. On the pipes. With a hairdryer. This seems like a good activity for a senior citizen WITHOUT WATER.

Grrr.

So my mother did all of this, and then she called me, told me what was going on, and asked to come spend the night at our house. Where we have water and therefore are not dead. So of course I said, “Come on over,” and the boys chirped, “Yippeee! Gaga is spending the night!”

In the middle of the night, Corey crept into my mother’s room and climbed into bed with her. He didn’t say a word, he just pulled the covers up to his chin and fell immediately back to sleep. And my mother, who was completely stressed out and unable to sleep, passed the time by watching his face. He’s a peaceful little being when he’s asleep. And he’s a miracle, this child with half a heart. And she realized, as she watched him sleep, that this little being is alive and well and blessing all of our lives, and the rest of it just doesn’t matter.

She drove home this morning to find that the water was on again in her home. This crisis has passed.

How do you hold more butt?

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Every night at bed time, after I read to the boys, they watch a video with their father. The latest favorite is Meghan Trainor’s All About that Bass. My apologies for the fact that the song is now stuck in your head. Just start thinking like Taylor Swift and try to Shake it Off. Anyway, usually the boys just watch the images and listen to the music. But Corey has finally started actually listening to the lyrics.

Uh oh.

Meghan sings, “My mama she told me don’t worry about your size.”

(This is a big fat lie, which we can discuss another time.)

“She said boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Corey pipes up and asks, “What’s booty?” I say, “Butt.” He replies, “How do you hold more butt?”

And I give the best answer of my entire parenting career. This answer should be framed and written about in the history books, touted on morning talk shows, and praised for all its glory. I say, “Uh..” And Damian immediately changes the subject.

There are more, er, interesting lines in that song, but I don’t think he picked up on them. Luckily Corey didn’t pipe up and ask, “What are skinny bitches?” What would I have said to that? I could have hit him with the literal definition. “Well Corey, they are underfed female dogs.” But then he would have no doubt hit me back with, “Why is she singing about skinny dogs?” It’s an out-of-control spiral just waiting to happen.

Oh, the joy of parenting. How do I expose them to social media and allow them to be part of the world without overexposing them? How much can I really protect them when they’re out of the house for so many hours a day? And what do I say now that they’re starting to ask me harder questions? It’s going to get worse before it gets better. They’re not even tweens yet! I guess I’ll just do my best, like everybody else, and hope I don’t screw them up too much.

In the meantime, I am secretly celebrating the fact that I get to watch pop music videos instead of Disney videos. Yay!

The Bar Scene in DC! (Not great if you’re 40 and married.)

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We spent the weekend in Washington DC celebrating Damian’s birthday, including a visit to the White House lawn. Well the fence, actually. Okay so we were way on the other side of the fence(s) with the other tourists and a lot of scary looking guards. But it was beautiful at night! I love this trip, mainly because DC is so close to us, but yet far enough away that I truly feel like we’re out and about. And there’s no laundry or chores to tackle. Here’s a little recap….

Friday we took the metro to Senator Barbara Mikalski’s office, where we picked up tour passes for the Capitol as well as passes to visit the active Senate and House galleries. Babs wasn’t in, but one of her lackeys gave us what we wanted. We checked into our hotel (the Wardman Park hotel by the zoo – we’d stayed there before), got some hummus from Mediterra, which has the BEST HUMMUS of my life! We relaxed a bit and then hit Joe’s Stone Crabs for dinner.

We’ve been to Joe’s many times in Las Vegas, but the one in DC is new. The story behind the restaurant is interesting. The original Joe’s is located in Miami, where stone crabs are pulled from the water, one claw is removed, and the crab is thrown back. The claw regenerates, and then the crab can be harvested again. We were interested to see if the place would look like the one in Vegas, and to discover whether the claws would taste better, considering that they are in season and fresh now, whereas we’ve always had them frozen in the past. The DC location looks just like the place in Vegas. Same decor, same waiters in penguin suits. We had oysters, crab soup, crab claws, and an excellent Chote du Rhone. We didn’t start dinner ’til 8:30, so I was DOA at the end and we just went to bed.

We got up at 7 the next morning, cleaned up, and hit my favorite breakfast place, Open City Cafe. I had an egg white omelet with spinach & tomatoes, cheese grits, and homemade wheat toast with butter and some amazing strawberry jam. And a giant mug of coffee that was so strong it nearly shot me out of my chair.

We hit the art museum next, and that was a totally cool experience on so many levels. First, there was a walk for HIV going on that morning, so all the roads were closed. We took the metro, so it was awesome for us – being able to just walk through the streets of DC with no cars around was like a “Beyond Thunderdome” experience. So totally cool. The museum itself was oddly quiet. Very few people were there. We visited Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cassat, and then noticed a special Degas exhibit that included two statues of The Little Dancer, so that was pretty exciting. For me.

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Then we stumbled upon another major special exhibit by Andrew Wyeth. I’d never heard of him, but his work was really striking. He was obsessed with windows. Obsessed. And he was able to create these incredible-looking airy tattered fabrics surrounding windows using only egg white, water, and pigment. He was also known for creating paintings that appeared to be both photograph and painting. Like this one old broken down house. I swear the boards appeared to be falling right out of the page, but the foreground was clearly paint. I wouldn’t want it hanging in my living room (too stark!), but it was fascinating. This is one of his most famous works, Wind from the Sea:

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Something I also found interesting was that a private collector gave a Vincent Van Gogh painting to the National Gallery THIS YEAR! Can you imagine having a priceless painting like that in your possession for so many years? I might die from the guilt of not sharing it with the world.

We did the Capitol tour next, and that was much better than I thought. I hate tours, but Damian wanted to do it, and doing the tour allowed us to see, via our incredibly-funny guide, parts of the Capitol that we would not otherwise have been permitted to see without getting arrested. So that was fun. I recommend it. The building is amazing. Inside the rotunda, the distance from floor to ceiling is so great that you could literally set the Statue of Liberty on the floor, and her torch would not reach the apex. From there, we walked to the Library of Congress, which was even cooler in person than in Nicholas Cage films.

That night we hit Old Ebbit Grille, where the special was lobster. I was just not hungry enough to eat a whole lobster, and frankly, I didn’t want to have to wear a big bib in public. I did, however, enjoy watching others crack these crazy lobsters. I had a fabulous shrimp ceviche and clam soup with some white wine, and Damian had trout. Mmm mm.

Then we made the mistake of going to a bar to watch the Buckeyes play Penn State. We found a place where alumni apparently go to watch the games in DC. I thought it would be great to watch a game with a bunch of Buckeye fans. Energy and excitement, you know? What I didn’t consider is that people in our age bracket just invite friends to their houses and have cookouts. Everybody was in their early twenties and interested in hooking up as much as watching the game. I felt so OLD. It was bad. Some dude handed me a bar stool and another one for Damian, saying, “Here’s a stool for you. And one for your boyfriend.” He’s my boyfriend. Now that is funny. But really, it was bad. We left at half time and finished the game on the HDTV in our hotel.

The next morning brought breakfast, check-out, the metro, and a celebration of the Kelehan Thanksgiving. But that is a story for another day…..